The other night driving home from the grocery store, my husband asked me what made me want to be a massage therapist. He said "It's not the usual thing that kids grow up wanting to be." Nope- It's not.
Honestly, When I was about 19 or 20 years old, I was in boring community college trying to find out what I wanted to do with my life and was in the middle of my quarter-life crisis which was taking its toll.
Panic attacks were a daily thing for me and my health had really started to go down hill. I was a chain smoking insomniac with peptic ulcers and a major caffeine habit. It was a mess.
I began working at a very posh day spa in Addison, TX and had the opportunity to meet lots of massage therapists. They all seemed HAPPY and BUSY- massage is the #1 service booked in a spa-of course there are other options such as facials, waxing services, nail services, hair and makeup but massage was where it was at!
I loved the idea of working in a peaceful environment and working one on one with others so I decided to check it out. I was super lucky to find The Asten Center of Natural Therapeutics which was an amazing massage school in Richardson TX. They were in business for over 20 years but closed around six or so years ago. Anyways, I signed up at one of their open houses- that was almost nine years ago and the rest is history.
Being a massage therapist has inspired me to take better care of my health and kick some of my unhealthy habits (especially the smoking one). It's made me smarter- I really excelled in understanding anatomy and physiology and all of the other things we have to know. Being in a career that makes me think on my feet, problem solve, and use good judgement and interpersonal skills has made me sharper and more compassionate and has introduced me to thousands of people that I would have never met otherwise.
I started thinking about my massage friends so I asked my friend Cindy, Co-owner of my fabulous scheduling software, Bodywork Buddy and Owner of Bodywork By Design in Battle Creek, Michigan to tell me about her decision to become a massage therapist and wanted to share it with you.
"That is what I LOVE about the field of massage therapy: there is always something new to learn. Always." Cindy Iwlew
"When I was a kid, I had horrible allergies with constant sinus pain and congestion. My Aunt was actually a massage therapist, and while I had no concept of what that really was or what she did, she showed me some acupressure points I could do on myself. It was Ah-maz-ing.
I still had no real grasp of what my Aunt did for a living. I just knew that she held some kind of secrets about the body that my parents, doctor, and allergist did not know. I worked these sinus points on myself all the time, even after entering my teens, but kind of forgetting all about the fact that my Aunt was a massage therapist.
Flash forward 15 years: an immediate member of my family and household was diagnosed with cancer (Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) at age 29. He’s a career military man, and right from the get-go had the attitude of “we’re gonna fight this, and we’re gonna win”.
His tumor quickly shrank and disappeared, which was pretty amazing given the 50/50 chance the doctor gave him in the beginning. I couldn’t help but think that his mindset had a lot to do with the success of his treatments. (Although I’m sure being young and relatively healthy otherwise played a huge role too!) He’s still cancer free to this day.
Watching that experience made me think about nursing. But I knew that nursing really wasn’t for me... I was more interested in the mind/body connection and the holistic side of things. I had already grown up watching my Dad deal with chronic back pain and endure many surgeries for herniated discs. Some of the surgeries didn’t even help - and I think that may have planted a seed in my mind of the limits of medicine. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying anything bad about Western medicine or saying that massage could have fixed him). But I am saying that through all of that, there was nothing holistic in the treatment of his pain. And it was obvious that back pain was still quite a mystery and guessing game to the medical community.
I started looking into fields that worked with the mind/body connection and was immediately fascinated with acupuncture. But hm... the schools I looked at required a Bachelor’s degree before starting the program for acupuncture. And let’s just be honest here: I’m not a big fan of school in the traditional sense. Some people are made for college. I, however, am not one of those people.
And then I came across massage therapy. I went and got my first massage, and it was all over after that. It wasn’t even until I had announced to my family my decision to study massage that they reminded me that my Aunt was a massage therapist! Crazy. I had just tucked that away in my mind and forgot all about it. Makes me wonder what else is in that head of mine that I’m not remembering...
At any rate, it’s kind of funny that I originally stumbled into this with such an interest in mind/body connection and Eastern philosophy, because now, after 14 years in the field - I’m much more into the muscle and tissue aspect of it and less the energetics. But that is what I LOVE about the field of massage therapy: there is always something new to learn. Always."
Cindy Iwlew is co-founder of Bodywork Buddy Massage Software, a complete online management solution for independent massage therapists that includes online scheduling.
She continues to operate her own private massage practice of 14 years, and has been an associate instructor for Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy since 2007.
I love her story- It's so real and I totally can relate to disliking school in the traditional sense and wanting to see a more holistic health care system.
So, What's your dream job?
Are you doing what you want to do?
Leave me your comments below.